Russia eats ‘Italian’

Kravchuk's drama becomes Oscar cuisine

While Italy continues its objections to the Academy’s nixing of its submission for the foreign-language Oscar race, Russia has quietly announced its own choice, helmer Andrei Kravchuk’s “The Italian.”

Pic concerns a 6-year-old boy in a children’s home who rebels when he finds out he is to be adopted by an Italian couple and sets off to find his birth mother.

Selectors went for a small-scale human drama after last year’s blockbuster choice, Timur Bekmambetov’s “Night Watch,” failed to make AMPAS’ final selection shortlist.

The Russian selection looks free from charges of cronyism that have dogged previous year’s entries.

Meanwhile, Italo industryites are clamoring for the Acad to change its rules after helmer Saverio Costanzo’s “Private” was nixed last week on grounds that it’s not “predominantly” in Italian.

The drama, in Arabic, Hebrew and English, concerns a Palestinian family’s plight in the occupied territories.

Italy’s motion picture body, Anica, will announce today whether it will select another candidate to replace “Private.”

Among many piqued by pic’s exclusion are the producer and helmer of the most likely Oscar replacement, “Manual of Love.” The hit comedy was the runner-up in the local selection committee’s vote.

“Manual” producer Aurelio De Laurentiis has pulled the pic from the race in protest after writing a letter urging the Academy to reconsider its exclusion of “Private.”

“It’s absurd,” De Laurentiis lamented to Daily Variety. “These rules are inadequate. Language no longer necessarily characterizes a national cinematography.

“Transformations in the global film industry … have to be considered,” he declared.

Academy rules regarding eligibility of foreign-language films have come under fire before, most recently in 2004, when Spanish-language pic “The Motorcycle Diaries,” by Brazilian helmer Walter Salles, was refused because its multinational cast and crew prevented it from qualifying as any single country’s selection.

In related news, helmer Subhash Gajurel’s “Basain” (Migration), a film based on a novel by Darjeeling-born Lila Bahadur Chhetri, is Nepal’s entry to the Academy Awards, according to Krishna Malla, a member of the Nepal Film Development Board.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will announce the nominations Jan. 31; the 78th Oscar ceremony will take place March 5.

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